Using LCA and Network Theory as a basis for eco-efficiency improvements in Norwegian plastic packaging recycling
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Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is to a wide extent applied to evaluate the environmental performance of recycling. However, LCA is not sufficient as stand-alone tool for decision-making regarding recycling since decisive factors such as the economical cost and incomes, are not included. To combine both environmental- and economic information the life cycle eco-efficiency assessment (LCEEA) may be a more suitable tool (Eik 2002). Here indicators such as recycling rate, CO2-emissions and net cost are applied in order to quantify environmental- and economic performance of various types of recycling and waste management systems. LCA and LCEEA are appropriate tools to examine the environmental- and/or economic performance of a given recycling system/chain and to identify areas of improvement such as to costly sorting or to CO2-intensive transport in the chain. However, these tools are not able to give us a deeper understanding about the identified areas of improvement in the recycling system/chain. To elucidate this we propose to combine LCEEA and the resource interface perspective within industrial network theory (Gadde and Håkansson et al 2002,Wedin 2001). We are suggesting that further information on identified areas of improvement can be found by studying resource interfaces between a defined focal resource and its network of inter-linked resources. In this paper we will have a closer look on the Norwegian deposit systems for recycling of one-way plastic (PET) bottles, where we have interviewed major actors. Use of LCEEA have identified the collection unit, the reverse vending machine (RVM), to be the most important area of improvement to increase the recycling rate and reduce the costs of sorting, transporting and recycling (Eik et al. 2002). The RVM is therefore chosen to be the focal resource to be further investigated.